Mucositis is an inflammatory process that affects the mucous membranes of the oral cavity and gastrointestinal tract. ONS PEP resources focus on oral mucositis, which is estimated to occur in about 40% of patients secondary to chemotherapy and almost 100% of those receiving radiation for head and neck cancer. Approximately 80% of those undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation will experience some level of oral mucositis. Oral mucositis can range in degree from mild changes in sensation to severe oral pain, infection, and ulcerative bleeding lesions. As a result of oral mucositis, patients can also experience anorexia, dehydration, weight loss, and malnutrition because of difficulty eating and drinking.
Oral mucositis is a dose-limiting side effect of cancer treatment, with more than one-third of patients discontinuing treatment because of the condition. Oral mucositis can be costly as well, necessitating hospitalization in 62% and tube feedings in 70% of patients with this symptom.